lørdag 10. mai 2014

Eyebody part 3

The art of integrating eyes, body and brain – and letting go of glasses forever

Alexander Technique teachers have a natural interest in vision. Vision is our dominating sense. Its influence on how we think, act and live should not be underestimated.
Peter Grunwald is regarded by many as the leading authority on eyesight and visual functioning in the Alexander Technique community. He has developed his own approach which he calls The Eyebody Method.

In the first and second parts of this article I presented the ideas behind the method and the health claims made. In this third part I'm discussing whether the Eyebody Method works at all. I'm also having a look at the kind of thinking underlying the method. Finally I outline the challenges facing the Alexander Technique and the Eyebody Method respectively.

Does It Work?

In recent years two Norwegian physiotherapists have developed a self help method in collaboration with a well known neurologist to help patients with anxiety, depression and musculo-skeletal disorders.(1) The method consists of using deliberate focused attention on simple specific movements. The idea behind the method is that the brain's networks for planned movement, body image and focused attention to some extent overlap with networks for anxiety and pain. Through the execution of simple, planned movements the influence of anxiety and pain is reduced due to increased proprioception, clearer body image and improved balance.

It is obvious that this process is likely to take place when applying the Alexander Technique in activity. I suggest that this also could be a relevant explanation for the Eyebody Method.
The process of applying panoramic vision and conscious depth perception may well lead to “increased feeling of safety, satisfaction and overall well-being” (Grunwald 2004, p. 38). In this sense the Eyebody Method could actually work.(2)

But, the subtitle of the book Eyebody is: “The art of integrating eyes, body and brain – and letting go of glasses forever”. The method is claimed to help against disorders that prevents clear-sightedness, like myopia, presbyopia, astigmatism etc. Vision is about more than seeing clearly, but seeing clearly is what glasses help us do. Glasses do one thing – they correct refractive errors. Can the Eyebody Method correct refractive errors and give clear sight?

The Eyebody Method has elements from the Bates Method.(3) The Bates Method has been around for a hundred years without being documented as effective for visual acuity. If the Bates Method actually were effective in improving eyesight this could easily have been documented by now. That the Bates Method improves eyesight to any significant degree is extremely unlikely. To the degree that the Eyebody Method overlap with Bates, it is not effective either.

Despite this there are reports that the Bates Method improves eyesight. The reasons for this could be many. If you become more aware of what you see, you notice more. This could be interpreted as seeing better. Likewise, if you use habitual tension in an effort to see, letting go of this tension makes seeing easier, which also could be interpreted as seeing better without there being any change in acuity.(4) Reduction in strength of prescription glasses could be due to incorrect prescription at the outset. The possible sources for errors are numerous.

But maybe the Eyebody Method has something more to offer? This is the outlining of the necessary steps to treat myopia:
“To reverse this condition we need to build up the connection to the reptilian brain through panoramic awareness of the retina, the layer of the choroid all the way to the lens, the vitreous humour and the pathways to the reptilian brain, before we can establish the connection to the limbic system (frontal area of eyes) and the upper visual cortex (auxiliary area of eyes). With conscious depth perception we can integrate the visual system, including the fovea centralis and the lower visual cortex for focused sight" (Grunwald 2004, 62).
Can this help against myopia? Very unlikely. You see the same pseudoscientific nonsense as revealed in part 1 of this article. But the process of being present and aware through panoramic awareness and conscious depth perception could improve the state of mind. What Eyebody has that Bates hasn't, is what it got from the Alexander Technique: mindfulness in activity.

The state of mind will influence what a person sees. But it does not mean that the person's eyesight has improved. It only means that he/she makes the best out of the vision abilities available.(5) Grunwald gives two examples in his book of someone going to the optometrist when exhausted, unwittingly weakening his argument instead of strengthening it.(6)

Letting go of glasses does not imply that you see better, only that you've got rid of the glasses.(7) Glasses are a bit like a prosthesis. If you have a prosthetic arm you can throw it away and make the best out of what you've got left. The arm won't grow out again. You can throw away your glasses and learn to live happily without them, but I wouldn't bet on your eyesight improving.

There are some indications that lifestyle may influence vision.(8) In Alexander Technique terminology we would say that use affects functioning. If this is the case there could be some truth in the anecdotal evidence of vision improvement from Alexander Technique lessons, and the Eyebody Method. The general failure of methods of natural vision improvement, however, makes it necessary to be very cautious. We may say that we help people use themselves to the best of their abilities, but until it is documented I consider it foolhardy claiming to increase clear-sightedness.

The Alexander Technique is effective against specific problems by improving general use. For instance, it can help reduce habits of strain and tension which people with visual impairment may acquire in the use of the head and neck in attempting to see better. The Eyebody Method might also help alleviate these tendencies.
The problem with the Eyebody Method is that its proposed working mechanism for improved general use is fatally flawed. If the Eyebody Method works it is not because of the theory behind it, but despite of it. There are no plausible reasons for the Eyebody Method being more effective than the Alexander Technique. But maybe the Eyebody Method has got something that the Alexander Technique has not?

Remember from part 1 that seeing clearly is, according to Peter Grunwald, not the primary function of the visual system (ibid, 38).(9) Reading the case stories in Eyebody one gets the impression that the teaching is some kind of psychotherapy. Living happily is what the Eyebody Method is about. In a case story about a woman with myopia Grunwald writes:
“In addition to raising her children K worked in human resources for a large corporation. Her time was split between administration using computers and talking on the phone, lecturing to groups and consulting people.  She said she sometimes got stressed, frustrated, and angry and she felt she was on an emotional rollercoaster. She often felt overwhelmed trying to juggle her family commitments, work and personal interests. She felt supported by her husband, although their lives had drifted apart. She was not overly concerned about this, although it was at the back of her mind. Anxiety had always been part of her life” (ibid, 63).
As the learning process goes on she experiences change:
“She became aware of a new way to deliver her presentations and said she felt much more 'in tune' and present, more able to 'hold' her audience. In a similar way she felt that her connection with her husband changed in quality and he noticed that she seemed more available in their relationship” (ibid, 64).
Other case stories have similar elements

Watching and listening to Peter Grunwald he comes across as a very warm and gentle human being. It would not surprise me if he has great ability in connecting to people, making them feel seen and cared for, and having the ability to creating a supportive atmosphere. I'm sure many who have taken part in workshops and had lessons with him experience true personal growth during the process.(10)

In these situations, however, and in particular during workshops lasting a week or weeks, mechanisms of group psychology may cause a kind of brainwashing (in a very pleasant way) which leaves people convinced that their eyesight has improved in ways it has not.(11)

These mechanisms can work even stronger when elements of faith healing (12) are introduced. This is from an article in a Danish magazine describing a workshop with Peter Grunwald. [A pdf versjon of this article used to be on the Eyebody website but has since been removed]:
“To begin with we were asked to visualise our day as it had been until then. Inside my head a little person moves in funny staccato movements, swirling all by herself through the morning, arriving to where I now was sitting. [...] It is very exciting to see Peter's work, and all participants queued to experience it first-hand . It went quickly. After having told about my vision, he puts his hands on my head and 'talks' with my brain. “I just work as feedback. The brain itself does the work,” he says. It is not easy to hear what he says to my brain, but I catch some things: “Willingness to trust” is repeated, and “let go of content of confusion”. He moves his hand about a bit and also places a hand on my back. I don't know what happens, but I can sense an increasing well-being. When he is finished I feel more invigorated. I think of the little person that swirled around in my head that morning ... This man has really got something” (Løgstrup 2008). [My translation from Danish]
The journalist obviously interprets hands-on Alexander Technique work as something magic. The real magic is that Peter Grunwald can communicate directly with a brain. There are strong elements of spirituality (13) in Grunwald's ideas. He has not only created a method for vision improvement, but also a belief system.(14)

The Belief System
In Eyebody you find this case story:
“Back in 1992 I was leading a workshop for a small group of participants. A woman, rather slumped and hunched with dark sunglasses and a white cane, was guided into the room by her son. The son left and the woman stayed for the two-day workshop. Over the two days the woman was able to recognize more and more images. With my help she began to be more upright and looked both younger and taller. She was obviously enjoying herself more. At the end of the second day everyone in the group took a partner blindfolded through the adjoining garden for a walk as an exercise. We had not previously been in this garden, but when it was the blind woman's turn she took her partner for a walk, as everyone else had done. We were all amazed at the woman's ability to manage the walk so easily and at her uprightness and poise. When I congratulated her on her ability to do this, she didn't respond. After completing the workshop that afternoon, the son came back to pick her up. The woman took her sunglasses out of her bag, took the cane her son gave her and slumped down as she left the venue. I have neither seen nor heard of her since. From that day on I promised myself that I would only work with people who had the commitment to make constructive changes in their lives” (Grunwald 2004, p. 102).
Grunwald fails to see that the woman had learnt a great deal, but she had not yet learnt how to respond to the stimulus of using the cane. Instead he interprets the woman's response as a sign of lack of commitment.(15)
“To illustrate what I mean by commitment, imagine that you are in a new partnership. At first there is the honeymooon phase, and any frustrations or criticisms of your partner is overlooked. Then little things can start to bother you. Commitment is needed to overcome these ups and downs” (ibid, 14).
There will come times when you begin to have doubts about the Eyebody Method. Maybe that is why Grunwald seems to put particular emphasis on the attitude or belief system of the pupil:
“In my teaching I guide people to find new solutions and make different choices. Often I notice that the feeling and belief of I can't do it is stronger than the I can redirect the visual system so that seeing is effortless and clear. The I can't do it was not part of my own belief system, although for people who revert back to wearing glasses this may be a hindering thought pattern. In my teaching I work directly with this counterproductive thought form as its importance cannot be underestimated” (ibid, 109).
Commitment is not sufficient. You need belief, maybe even a leap of faith. If you don't get it there is something wrong with your thought pattern. Maybe you need a shrink:
“When I work with someone who has almost no ability to contact their vitreous humour I may refer them for psychotherapy” (ibid, 84). (16)
To redirect the visual system you need a special kind of thinking:
“What we usually call thinking occurs in the frontal lobes of the neocortex and is what I call two-dimensional thinking. But there is another sort of thinking that has its origins toward the back of the neocortex, an area I call the upper visual cortex. I associate this area with conscious, three-dimensional thinking” (ibid, 14). (17)
“The frontal lobes do not coordinate the whole as vision generated within the upper visual cortex does. We place high value on frontal lobe thinking in modern culture. Our frontal lobes are able to deliver information, news, facts and statistics. [...] Our frontal lobes are sohpisticated and important, but they do not coordinate our whole selves” (ibid, 54).
Grunwald seems to have a negative attitude towards the frontal lobes, which he associates only with logical thinking. (18) You saw this negative attitude also in part 1 (See the section “Vision leads”). Logic and reason is dangerous to a belief system built on imagination and not on facts. This is probably one reason he doesn't want you to be too sceptical:
“What is required for me to start learning this Method? There are few basic requirements. A certain level of commitment and willingness to change is fundamental. It is important to keep an open mind when learning something new. A constructive scepticism can be helpful but a destructive scepticism will not allow you to learn; it will limit you to what you already know” (ibid, 126). (19)
In a learning situation there could be a limit to what level of scepticism is helpful. But even a slight scepticism is sufficient to debunk the theory behind the Eyebody Method. A certain level of scepticism is necessary when considering whether an idea or method is correct or not. There has been far too little criticism of the Eyebody Method. The only thing I have discovered is a vaguely critical review of the Eyebody book in Statnews. (20)

Grunwald is the originator of Eyebody, but he didn't develop it completely without influences from others. (21) These other persons could have given him healthy corrections. Grunwald at times had doubts: “At times I wondered if this was all only in my own head” (Grunwald 2004, p.119). Possibly, outside influence could have made him moderate his ideas.

Instead, the impression is that Grunwald was surrounded by toadies:
“Each January since 1998, a group of enthusiastic and experienced Alexander teachers from around the world have explored the AT principles applied to vision and eyesight, coming together in Auckland, New Zealand. This year we found that glasses had a dramatic effect on our overall posture. Specifically we noticed an automatic slumping when putting on our glasses, even though we were directing our use as well as we could. The occipital bone and the lower back were particularly affected by the shortening and narrowing of the entire visual pathway” (Grunwald 2000, p. 12). (22)
The lack of constructive scepticism has allowed the creation of a method based on beliefs and not on reason. A belief system is difficult to criticise. Criticism from outside more often than not only causes stronger convictions among the believers. Change must come from within the congregation.

The Challenges
The Eyebody Method is endorsed by many in the Alexander Technique community. They fail to see that the emperor has got no clothes on. Generally, Alexander Technique teachers lack the ability to spot pseudoscience and unrealistic claims. There is a lot of pseudoscience in the Alexander Technique world. The Eyebody Method is only the tip of the iceberg. This situation is unsustainable because ideas contrary to common sense and scientific facts will sooner or later fail.

We have got to be open to new ideas. But at the same time it must be possible to openly criticise these ideas, to put them to the test. The Alexander Technique is very much about getting rid of the things that we don't need. We don't need obsolete ideas, be they from me, from Peter Grunwald, or even from Alexander himself.

We are on the threshold of a new era for the Alexander Technique. More and more research is being carried out on its effects and possible working mechanisms. A knowledge of scientific method and scientific process will be helpful in meeting the challenges of on the one side not overstating positive results, and on the other accepting the negatives. They will come, because the Alexander Technique is not a panacea. We need to be ready to face the facts. (23)

The challenges facing Peter Grunwald and his Eyebody Method are these:
-stop promoting bogus claims. Claims of helping conditions like glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration are irresponsible, unethical and in some instances illegal.
-stop promoting pseudoscience. The current theoretical framework of the Eyebody Method is nonsensical to such a degree that it can not be taken seriously. The practical method can function fine without it.
-don't meet criticism with: “Oh, but you have to experience it”. It is fully possible to make the criticisms I have made and still acknowledge the experiences people have had with the method. Experiences are real. The explanations are bunk.
-consider stop claiming to improve eyesight and instead rebuild the Eyebody Method as a mindfulness technique where awareness of vision is used as a tool.

The Conclusion
The Eyebody Method is an alternative therapy derived from the Alexander Technique, based on pseudoscience. The method promotes bogus claims of health effects and seemingly asserts to engender permanent clear-sightedness so that you can let go of glasses forever. None of these claims have been documented. The Eyebody Method could potentially work as a mindfulness technique.

Please feel free to comment below.

1) The physiotherapists and the neurobiologist have published two books. I have written unpublished articles on the books and their relevance to the Alexander Technique. I'll email pdf copies of the articles to anyone interested. Translated into English the titles of the books are The Balancing Code and The Learning Key. As far as I know the books are not published in English. 
I have also written blogposts about the books intended for the general public: Balansekoden og Læringsnøkkelen (sorry, Norwegian only).

2) Interestingly a main tenet in this method (Learning Oriented Physiotherapy) is that people experiencing anxiety often have problems with balance and that this problem is related to having become reliant on sight for the adjusting of balance at the expense of proprioception. Balance is of the highest priority in the brain, and breaking the balancing code means to build up the proprioceptive sense to becoming free of having to rely on vision. Vision processes are too slow and resource consuming to be an effective balancing agent. This speaks against Grunwald's claim that the upper visual cortex has a coordinating role in the functioning of the brain. But when it comes to activating brain networks through deliberate awareness I choose to give the Eyebody Method the benefit of doubt, saying that in this respect it works approximately along the lines of the Alexander Technique.

3) “ ..., Peter had synthesized the Alexander Technique and the Bates Method of Natural Vision, ...” (Galen Cranz in the foreword, Grunwald 2004, p. 8). The Bates exercises of palming and sunning (with eyes closed) are suggested as suitable exercises for beginners (ibid, 114-116). The Bates Method or other forms of natural vision improvement are not found to improve vision.

4) I touch upon this in a blogpost on the Alexander Technique and eyesight: Synssansen (Sorry, Norwegian only).

5) This is parallel to a musician performing at her/his best in a favorable state of mind. The musician makes the best use of her/his abilities. It does not mean that the level of skill has increased.

6) The first one is about himself when he went to an optometrist for lens reduction. (Grunwald 2004, p. 23). The other is a fictitious example of someone visiting the optometrist while tired on a Friday afternoon, (ibid, 58).

7) Grunwald's antipathy towards glasses is based on his misunderstanding of how vision works. But, having said that, wearing glasses is never a perfect solution. It can lead to various negative habits concerning the use of the eyes, head and neck, which in their turn have a negative effect on use in general. The Eyebody Method might have an influence on these habits, but so does the Alexander Technique.

8) A study has found Myopia Increasing in the U.S. Population and another that Outdoor Activity Reduces the Prevalence of Myopia in Children. The problem here is that the reasons or working mechanisms for this is not found. It is impossible to tell whether the Alexander Technique or the Eyebody Method could have any impact.
Heredity is probably the most important factor in juvenile myopia: Parental myopia, near work, school achievement, and children's refractive error. Undercorrection of myopia enhances rather than inhibits myopia progression. This seems to contradict Grunwald's theories.

9) This is expressed very nicely in a blog by a workshop participant:
“The Eyebody method can improve your vision. I am not even talking about the number of lines you see on the Snellen chart or the refractive error that the ophthalmologist can measure. In many cases these things can undoubtedly be achieved by changing the way you are using your visual system, however it seems that for most adults it is essential to not (over)focus on objectively measurable vision improvement. When I talk about improving your vision I mean enhancing your visual experience so you can see and notice more things, so the environment (things and people) you see are more alive and you feel more connected to the environment. I mean making vision a source of joy rather than a burden, which it often is for me, even when I see very clearly whatever I need to see.”

10) A British massage therapist who took part in a 3 week Eyebody retreat in 2010 has written a very fine account of it. (You can skip the middle part about the accommodation): The Eyebody Retreat 2010 in Detail
There is a wide variety of activities used in the teaching of the Eyebody Method, including meditation, dance, ball games, psychotherapeutic exercises etc. In this YouTube interview Grunwald is asked whether former participants will learn something new. Apparently the content of the teaching is constantly developing. If there are other sources out there on the net with descriptions of workshops/lessons, please let me know.

11) This is because, as Grunwald states: “It's the brain that sees, not the eyes!” (Grunwald 2004, p. 25). Grunwald uses this almost as a slogan. This may give the impression that Grunwald knows something about vision that others don't know. Having studied Grunwald's ideas it is clear that he does not.
An interesting fact is that one can detect visual stimuli, albeit subconsciously, even when the visual cortex is damaged. This is called blindsight. Without the eyes, however, we can't see a damned thing.

12) “Faith healing is dangerous in its practice and uncertain in its results” (Alexander 1996, p.215).

13) There are several references to spirituality in Eyebody, but especially on pages 105-107, when the subjects are meditation and death and dying. Here Grunwald says about the upper visual cortex that: “It is the place some might call the doorway, where we connect with a non-physical realm of guidance. This may well be the place from which we depart when we die. [...] If we have lived life connected with the higher region of the visual pathway we can move through it and out this doorway through the upper visual cortex; leaving the body and staying conscious in the process of leaving” (Grunwald 2004) It seems Grunwald sees the Eyebody Method as a spiritual practice. 
It is my impression that the emphasis on spirituality increases in more recent material. In this YouTube interview he also talks about death and dying, and he touches upon spirituality in this second interview with Robert Rickover.
I want to make clear that it is not my intention in any way to criticise Grunwald for his religious beliefs, only his pseudoscience and unfounded claims.

14) Grunwald regards the Bates Method as a belief system. It would be quite natural if he regards the Eyebody Method likewise: “In his elegant, comprehensive book The Art of Seeing, he [Huxley] synthesizes Alexander's principles and Bates' practical methodology and belief system [...]” (Grunwald 2004, p. 15).

15) Grunwald blames the woman for the failure. A teacher (Alexander Technique teachers not the least) should never ever blame the pupil.

16) The vitreous humour is the gel like substance filling most of the eyeball. Grunwald think it is related to emotions: “Then there are those feelings relating to the reptilian brain and its fight or flight response, those of fear and anxiety, which I relate to the vitreous humour, the fluid that supports the eyeball from within” (Grunwald 2004, p. 84). The vitreous humour is produced by cells that degenerate after birth. It has no blood supply and changes very little. If you believe you can feel your vitreous humour you have a vivid imagination. If you can't, it just means that you are not that gullible.

17) It seems as Grunwald has turned the popular idea of left-brain/right-brain into a back-to-front model. He can't possibly, by the way, choose what parts of his brain to employ.

18) The frontal lobe is associated with reasoning, planning and problem solving. But also important for speech, movement and emotions. It is for instance vital for empathy. It is not such a cold and sterile place as Grunwald envisages. 
Grunwald's holistic definition of vision includes planning ahead (Grunwald 2004, p. 52), meaning that the Eyebody Method principle of vision generated within the upper visual cortex leading (ibid, 54) by necessity must involve the frontal lobes.

19) Grunwald creates a false dichotomy between being open minded and being a sceptic. A sceptic will change any opinion in the face of solid evidence. Someone with opinions based on a belief system will not budge.

20) The reviewer says that:
“The most curious and innovative ideas are those that detect sympathy between particular parts of the body and the visual system. This fascinating section is the most radical, and to my mind we were asked to take most of it on trust. The four Eyebody Principles contentions made me a little nervous. I found no testing of these principles within the text. [...] I met the author at Oxford last year and he suggested that I attend one of his courses, to better understand the book, which is probably good sense. However this inflates the price from £15.95 to several hundreds. I take his point, but I do believe that a published book should make its own case. The Use of the Self is not a comprehensive guide to the Alexander Technique, but it is perfectly understandable. Perhaps Peter Grunwald has found a wonderful means of letting go of glasses forever as the cover proclaims. I am afraid that I could not tell from reading the book whether he had or not” (Greenoak 2005).

21) Here are some quotes showing Grunwald's collaboration with colleagues: 
“I attended numerous Alexander conferences to share with and get feedback from my international colleagues, to find out if I was still on track. And many helped me further” (Grunwald 1999b).
“This year, in collaboration with some of my colleagues, I was able to research successfully directing the sclera, cornea and outer layer of the optic nerve to affect indirectly the functioning of the shoulder girdle, arms and hands. These directions are seemingly essential for reversing the malfunctional pattern causing astigmatism, a curvature of the cornea” (Grunwald 1999a).
“During the last intensive workshop in January, held in New Zealand, a group of enthusiastic Alexander teachers from around the world discovered the intrinsic workings of the accomodating area of the eye” (Grunwald 2002).

22) It is not only Grunwald's Alexander teacher colleagues who are responsible. I suspect a certain cranio-osteopath to be particularly to blame for the creation of a bunk neurobiology: “When I 'found' the vitreous humour I sensed that there might be a pattern in all this. [...] Hugely encouraged by that, I sought out a very good cranio-osteopath to work with in his way. I needed some help to get into the area behind the eye - the optic nerve. He unknowingly helped me to open up the stretch between the eyeball and the visual cortex, which lies in front of the occipital bone. And there I found the whole area of the lower parts of the body” (Grunwald 1999b).

23) The case of homeopathy is a tragic example of alternative health practitioners desperately holding on to debunked theories in the face of facts. It is my hope that Alexander Technique teachers will behave with more dignity and intelligence.

Literature and resources
Alexander, Frederick Matthias (1996): Man's Supreme Inheritance. Mouritz.
Fadnes & Leira (2006). Balansekoden. Universitetsforlaget.
Fadnes, Leira & Brodal (2010). Læringsnøkkelen. Universitetsforlaget. 
Greenoak, Francesca (2005). Book Review: Eyebody. Statnews Vol. 6 (issue 15). 
Grunwald, Peter (1999). Eyesight and the Alexander Technique. Statnews Vol. 5 (issue 3).
Grunwald, Peter (1999) The Eye-body Reflex Patterns. Direction Journal vol. 2, (number 7), Vision issue, 24-28.
Grunwald, Peter (2000). Eyesight and the Alexander Technique. Statnews Vol. 6 (issue 1).
Grunwald, Peter (2002). Presbyopia and Glaucoma – New observations applying the Alexander Principle. Statnews May 2002 Vol. 6 (issue 7).
Grunwald, Peter (2004). Eyebody: The Art of Integrating Eye, Brain and Body – and letting go of glasses forever. Eyebody Press.
Grunwald, Peter (2005). Integrating Eyes, Brain and Body. In A. Oppenheimer (ed) The Congress Papers 2004: Exploring the Principles. 7th International Congress of the F.M. Alexander Technique. Stat Books.
Løgstrup, Mette. (2008). Eyebody. Article in the magazine Nyt aspekt og Guiden, september-oktober 2008.

Online interviews with Robert Rickover

Other online resources
Video presentation on AlexTechNews youtube channel: 
Eyebody youtube channel: www.youtube.com/user/Eyebody
The website for the Eyebody method: eyebody.com
Account of a 3 week Eyebody retreat by British massage therapist: The Eyebody Retreat 2010 in Detail 
Blog with writings on Eyebody, Bates and the Alexander Technique: Notes on seeing and moving 

9 kommentarer:

  1. "Is it possible to discern ones thalamus from ones limbic system? Or actually feel those structures or those structures working? Very unlikely."

    "How can Grunwald know that the thalamus is narrowing or the brainstem shortening? He can't. He must be making things up."

    Your articles contain numerous assertions to the effect that no one can have a kinaesthetic awareness of parts of the physical structure of the eyes or brain.

    What makes you say that?

    Hopefully you don't imagine that because you can't feel a particular part of your body, no one else can?


    1. Hi Kevin,
      Thanks for asking.

      What I write is based on physiological facts.

      Some parts of the eyes we can feel, like the eyelids and the corneas. Other areas, like the vitreous humour, we can't feel because there are no proprioceptors present to do the job.

      It is the same with the brain. No proprioceptors. It is actually possible to perform brain surgery on patients who are wide awake, using only local anesthesia to get through the scalp.

      If Grunwald is able to feel in his own brain what he describes, it would be a medical sensation. Likewise if he is able to feel it in others only using his hands.

      I don't think we should believe him, or anybody else for that matter, without there being some solid evidence.

      This is only common sense.


  2. I agree with most of what you say Halvard. Thanks for saying it. I appreciate finding somewhere to come to terms with the terrible experience I had on an eyebody retreat last year.

    It was a six day retreat, costing £850, which was a fortune for me. I went open-minded and excited to learn. I was disillusioned by the experience. I sent the comments below to Grunwald's retreat coordinator but didn't get a reply. They were intended to be constructive feedback for Grunwald. (I will share my other thoughts in a separate post.)

    -Peter Grunwald is a likable fun and charismatic person.

    Here are my comments on Peter's teaching

    -The teaching lacked clarity and focus. It often consisted of a stream of words, the meaning of which was not explained. He said his teaching would become clearer later in the week, and I waited patiently, but it barely did. The soul anatomy lesson for new people was intended to enlighten us to the meaning of the words he'd been using, but he did not have the tools and perhaps the skill to do this clearly. He held up a smallish image of an eye (perhaps just under A3) to the group, which was inadequate for a visually impaired group when looking at details such as cilliary folds. It would have been better if he'd projected the image onto the wall, or given us each an image, and showed videos.

    -The first session for new people was the story of Peter's life and travels, which lasted I think over an hour. I think it would have been better if he cut this short, so he had more time to teach us how to improve our eyesight. Or allow more time for questions.

    -I think it would be better if Peter took more time over our diagnosis. He took perhaps 6 seconds over mine, and I feel it is not accurate. I am short sighted in both eyes, more so in my right eye. I was put in the Right Over group. I felt intense kinship with those in the contracted group and no kinship at all with the people in the Right Over group, in terms of their confidence etc. When I told Peter I wanted to move group he said I was welcome to but if I did he wouldn't be able to help me. I was very upset at this.

    -I feel it would have been beneficial if he had listened to us for longer, instead of making quick judgements which fitted his theory. When we were not engaged with his words, he attributed this entirely to our underfocussing, rather than the interplay between speaker and listener (the more clear and relevant the speaker is, the more the listener will be able to focus etc).

    Thanks, Pip

  3. The above post was intended as constructive feedback. Here I will share my thoughts more freely.

    I agree with your use of the phrase 'meaningless pseudo scientific psychobabble'. I tried to follow it. Towards the end of the Eyebody retreat, I shared my bafflement with two other participants. They'd both been going to the Eyebody retreats for years, and both said that Grunwald's words were meaningless. One said that even Grunwald didn't know what he was speaking about. One said that his words were meaningless, but they continued to come to the retreat because it's a lovely venue, with nice people, and 'stuff happens'.

    The retreat felt religious in character, with Grunwald playing the part of the all-knowing charismatic religious leader. It had a definite cult feel to it, with some people in raptures (and others quietly skeptical- in fact never openly skeptical in the whole group, but only quietly confiding in me when I said I wasn't appreciating the retreat). Someone who'd been for a few years said dissent was stamped out very quickly on the retreats.

    This accords with my experience. When I questioned Grunwald's diagnosis of my brain type, he asked me why I had a problem with authority. After a (perhaps) 6 second diagnosis he decided I had a right-side over brain. He did this diagnosis by putting his hands over my head whilst asking me to say whether I felt I was using my right or left eye to see close and distant. I was told to join the 'right over' group, and we would discuss together our psychological similarities. I was alarmed by the lack of critical thinking in the group (although they seemed nice people). People agreed that they had certain traits, such as making lists. We were invited to find similarities to prove Grunwald's theory. I was the only one who voiced that I felt like I had more differences to the group than similarities.

    When I said to Grunwald I wondered if he might have put me in the wrong group, he denied he could have made a mistake and said mysteriously 'I have my methods'. He didn't say what his methods were. He put his hands over my head and did the diagnosis again, asking me to say which eye I felt I was using to see in the near distance and far away (I wasn't sure, so guessed, and told him I guessed, as previously). After the diagnosis, I expected him to say which group I should be in. ie I expected him to confirm his earlier judgement or give another. I had deliberately not reminded him which group he originally put me in, to make it a fair test. After the second diagnosis, he simply said 'you should go into the group I put you in before'. He couldn't remember which group he had put me in, and presumably didn't want to risk contradicting himself by giving a fresh diagnosis.

    He may be intuitive, I think some people do have the ability to sense things which others don't. But I don't believe he can sense much of what he claims. And I think if he could genuinely tell which brain type I was, he should be able to do it a second time.

    Towards the end of the retreat Grunwald spent a group session 'teaching' us about excarnation - which meant something like exiting life before reincarnation. I didn't quite grasp it, but it was about death and spirituality. There were Alexander Technique teachers in the room who loved it, and who were enthusiastically talking about past lives etc.

    Continued in next post...

  4. When i went on the retreat, in August, I had already completed two terms of full-time Alexander Technique teacher training. The experience of the retreat was very disturbing. I thought, if Alexander Technique teachers enthusiastically follow Grunwald, then I don't want to be part of their world, because it is based more on faith than reason. The retreat exemplified what I found so dissatisfying on my AT training, particularly the lack of critical reasoning skills. At my AT school AT seemed to require faith more than science. We did Grunwald's vision dance every week, and Meridian rubs at least once a week. I never felt there was a point in either, other than in that they provided light exercise. I was told to try juggling in a way which was simply wrong and would never work because it defied gravity. I was told to recite extracts from Shakespeare in iambic pentameter, even though the extracts were not written in iambic pentameter (the AT teacher just assumed it was). After a turn, the teacher would say 'ah yes, the shoulder is hanging lower', and cite this as a good sign of release. Another day, the shoulder would be sitting higher after a turn and this would be cited as a good sign of release. There was no explanation of how to recognise release. When I said I wanted to understand what was meant by energy (in terms of transmitting energy through light hands-on to the client), I was told that it was 'flow', which didn't help at all. I felt there was a real lack of clear teaching, except by one teacher, who played a small part in the course. So, shortly after the Eyebody retreat, I quit my Alexander training. I'm sure there are alexander schools which I would feel more comfortable in, but I'm not able to move area now.

    Thanks for reading,


    1. Hello Pip,
      Thank you for your very personal contribution! What you are telling gives an interesting insight in the work of Peter Grunwald.

      As I have no direct practical experience of Grunwalds work, my criticism concerns mostly his theoretical ideas. Stories that can explain the practice of his methods, be they positive or negative, are very welcome.

      I think you did rigth in terminating your training. Although it is probably not yet possible to explain the effect of the touch of an Alexander teacher's hands, the skill of using the hands as we do can easily be explained in a rational way. It has nothing to do with 'energy'.

      I hope you will have the chance of resuming your training at another school.

      Best wishes!

  5. Hello Halvard,

    Thanks for your reply. That's a very bold statement, that the skill of an AT teacher's hands has 'nothing to do with energy'. I appreciate you giving me this fresh perspective.

    Best wishes, Pip

  6. I have been to one of Peter Grunwells 7 day retreats in New Zealand it was brilliant and I have never worn glasses again. Sounds like most of the people are very narrow minded and do not want to be helped with their problems anyway they would sooner new negative and put somebody down.
    Peter is a brilliant man and is way before his time and that is the problem with narrow minded people in this world they want every one else to help them and are not prepared to get off their own butt and help themselves.
    I know of many people that have had there eyesight restored to better than before ever.

    So don't knock what you know nothing about and never will due to your own narrow mindedness.

    Tony Heaven

    1. Hello,
      Thank you for commenting. I'm pleased to hear that you benefited from Grunwald's method. Some people do, and I have given possible explanations in the articles. If you care to read the articles again, you can see that I'm not making any negative personal characterisations of Peter Grunwald. I only criticise his ideas. You, on the other hand, descend to ad hominem. (Although I take 'narrow minded' as a compliment).
      It has been almost three years now since I wrote about the Eyebody Method. As yet, nobody has been able to come up with criticism of the content of the articles. Maybe what I have written is the truth about the method.

      Halvard Heggdal